Unfortunately emotional abuse is more common than you might think, since it can exist in various forms that sometimes appear in subtle ways. It’s also hard to see and sometimes even to recognize for the person who’s going through it, which means people might end up putting it up with it for a longer period of time than they would if it was a different kind of abuse. If you happen to meet someone who has some in their past it doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t perfectly ready of having a great relationship with you, but there are some things to be aware of. Here are some ways that people love differently when they’ve suffered emotional abuse in their past.

They’re Not Always Great at Communicating

When women grow up dealing with emotional abuse, often this leaves them feeling that they aren’t good enough at something. Very frequently, this has to do with them being told or taught that their thoughts and opinions don’t matter, and therefore that they shouldn’t bother sharing them. Over this time this can lead to a lot of stuffed emotions but also their taking on the belief that it’s dangerous to say what they feel. Think about it, being vulnerable is frightening as it is in many circumstances, but when people have been punished for it there are even greater barriers to letting those walls down.

Even when someone has healed past this point to a certain degree they might still have some residual communication habits that cause challenges from time to time. Perhaps it takes her a little longer to open up about certain things, or maybe she’s defensive when she’s called out on something. All of us have our little issues here are there, but being aware of why she has hers can help you respond from a place of understanding instead of having unhelpful reactions of your own.

They Might Have Trust Issues

Nothing will shatter the innocent trust of a child like hurting them repeatedly and not making up for it. Having “trust issues” sounds like a pretty bad thing, but do keep in mind that it isn’t probably her fault that she has them. Plenty of people have them from straightforward breakups and losses, so you can imagine how deep the fear can run when it comes from actual emotional abuse.

Dating someone with trust issues can be a special kind of challenge, and in fact it can make it pretty challenging to get close enough to them to actually be in a real relationship. Sometimes people with trust issues try to keep their relationships on a casual level so that they can avoid the danger of getting close and being vulnerable.

They Might Want to Move Slowly

When people have dealt with emotional abuse they might be more likely to want to move slowly into a new relationship. Some  research suggests that emotional abuse can be more psychologically harmful than physical abuse because people are more likely to blame themselves for it. Someone might be able to see clearly that they don’t deserve to be hit but it’s a little harder to sort through if someone is simply ignoring you or telling you negative things that you believe about yourself.

Because of this fact, they might be particularly on guard to make sure that they don’t get into a similar situation again. This can be true no matter who it was that was emotionally abusing them, but especially if it was in a romantic relationship. When a family member harms us it’s plenty confusing but we didn’t choose to be involved with them. But we choose our romantic partners or at least have a bit more control over how long they’re in our lives, so when we suffer abuse in situations that we chose to get into it can take us a while to figure out how to trust our instincts again.

The good news is that someone being slow and cautious to get into a relationship is probably thinking more clearly than the people who are rushing into them out of insecurity or because they don’t like to be alone. It might take her a while to realize that she’s ready, but if you can be patient you’ll know for sure that she’s super serious about you once she does finally feel comfortable committing to you.

They Might Question their Contribution

The really ugly thing about emotional abuse is that it is manipulative and controlling and it can lead people to have low self esteem or be unaware of all the ways that they’re awesome because someone wanted them to think that way. It can take quite some time to fix those false beliefs even when they’re very outdated. This might mean that when they’re in a relationship they have hidden or visible fears about what their contribution is. It can be hard for them to believe that such a wonderful person wants to be with them and treat them nicely when they’ve been told or shown the exact opposite in the past.

In certain circumstances this can undoubtedly be trying, since you never want to feel like you’re spending half your time just trying to convince her that you really like her. You’d rather just be enjoying your time together. But hopefully she’ll get the picture early on that you’re serious about her if you are, and she will actively make an effort to keep her mind on track when it starts to worry. You can support this by being a great communicator and expresses your honest appreciation and gratitude when you really feel it.

They Might Be Quick to Point Out Toxic People

When people have suffered emotional abuse and have clarity about it, they might be really good at spotting other people who have similar characteristics or qualities of those who have wronged them. If they do, they might start pointing them out, and sometimes they will be people who are in your life. On one hand this might be slightly unnerving if you didn’t realize the drains you’re still hanging out with, but on the other hand they might have some really good insight at dealing with people who are a little more challenging to deal with.

These women have had to fight their way out of bad situations and deal with the consequences for standing up for themselves. Once they’re out of that they will not want to go back, and they don’t want people that they love to be stuck dealing with challenging people either. If you’re willing to hear her perspective you might actually learn a lot and redraw some of your own boundaries.

They Might Love Affection

Occasionally people who have been emotional abused can get overly clingy once they’re comfortable because they’re afraid of losing what they have found. But whether or not they’re actually clingy they might particularly love affection and being close because it helps to affirm over and over all day long that the relationship is there and thriving. If you also love affection that can be a match made in heaven, but if you don’t it might take some getting used to. Just keep in mind that her need for affection is coming from a good place, and that she’s never trying to make you feel uncomfortable when she’s expressing it.

Kate Ferguson

Kate Ferguson is a Los Angeles local and freelance writer, who utilizes as much wit and personal anecdote as possible across a variety of genres. When she's not writing, the UC Davis graduate is focused on pursuits of the entertainment industry, spin class, and hot sauce. Keep up with her on her social media @KateFerg

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